Thursday, February 7, 2013

The underworld of Construction: Part 4

Timber theft

This Momanyi guy found us on the site when we were busy chatting with my foreman and introduced himself. He was all smiles and presented to the foreman his quotation for timber. By the way, some of us who are small-bodied and sometimes dress anyhow without much thinking are mistaken for KYMs on site. That reminds me someday when my brother in-law came to see me on site and this entrepreneurial young man who wanted to enlist the owner of the house for garbage collection service was all over him asking for business and ignoring me…then my brother points at me and advised him that am the owner of the site to his utter shock and subsequent apologies…story for another day.

The quote in comparison to the others was so favourable, I could not believe my eyes; what with prices lower by as much as Kshs 3 to 5 per foot. I asked the guy why that is the case and he explained that they get their timber from Tanzania at very good prices hence the favourable prices to their customers. I swallowed that hook line and sinker and we agreed that we shall visit him at his yard and see the timber.

The day after we drove to Rongai together with my foreman and all the way to Nkoroi where the yard is located. We were loaded with the cash to do the purchase because it was meant to be a cash deal. They had very nice timber and we agreed that we shall buy from there. Immediately we agreed, he called some two transport guys and negotiated the transport on our behalf, a nice dude or so I thought. He thereafter called his men into action; around eight of them to measure the timber. We agreed that my foreman will keep any eye on the recording of the measurements while I keep an eye on the actual measurement, tight controls or so we thought. The timber was measured and loaded without any issues and truth be told I never noticed any anomaly. It was then transported to my site and offloaded.

Something crossed my mind, I thought it was wise to verify the delivery. I thus instructed the fundis to measure the timber again. To my utter shock, what I paid for as compared to what I had on the ground had a discrepancy of 40%; in other words it was 40% less. Wait….so what happened. I thought I had a hawk eye when the measuring was being done and I also accompanied one of the delivery trucks to the site while the foreman accompanied the other. Mystery, mystery…conned in broad daylight…but how??

I swung into action, called the guy and told him that he had conned me. Of course he refused. I insisted that I’ll take up the matter to the cops but he sounded unmoved. I drove back to Rongai the morning after and reported to the police station about the ordeal. The cop serving in the OB section just laughed at me and before I finished my story he asked me whether I had bought the timber from a certain yard owned by Kisiis. He confided in me that they have received so many complains about that yard and they have not managed to do anything because it is hard to prove that the guys actually steal…wait…: ”And why don’t you set a trap to confirm is they steal”, I asked him. Of course they never really bother because in the past despite arresting the owner severally, the guy always found his way out mysteriously. In my thinking this obvious pointed to something bigger and I therefore so no need of pursuing the matter further with the cops.

I went back home dejected and trying to figure out how to deal with the matter. I even contemplated using unorthodox means to recover the loss, like threatening to go for the owner head with them boys. Painful as it was, I decided to cut my losses as opposed to throwing good money in an attempt to recover the loss. How then did they steal from me??

After utilizing the timber which was far less than was needed on site, I decided to shop around and look for a place to top up. My little shopping around landed me in Kawangware where I met a lady who owned a very well stocked yard. We had a chat with her in her office and I told her about the Rongai incidence and she laughed at me. Before I narrated the entire ordeal, she told that it is commonplace and especially in some yards in Rongai to get sellers who underquote but steal from you. She advised me that it is better to pay the market rates and get value for money as opposed to look for cheap stuff and get conned. Anyway I bought timber from her and after confirming the delivery on site, it was tallying with what I paid for. But while her KYMs were measuring the timber, one opened up and confirmed that he once worked in a yard in Rongai and he had no qualms telling me the various ways they were stealing from unsuspecting customers.

It will shock you but in the next post I’ll tell you how it is done and how to arm yourself just in case some fellows have planned to do it on you. I was conned in broad daylight but some things you never wish they happen even to your worst enemy…. Be warned and advised.

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